Paul, didn’t want the same old thing–that is, a tenor. Instead he opted for a concert, high “G” tuning with a variety of woods. Per his instructions, I have constructed a concert ukulele with East India Rosewood sides to accent a Koa sound board and back. Paul also wanted Oregon curly maple binding with paua abalone purfling and a solid Koa neck. His logo is duplicated on the head stock with paua abalone as well. Accents are Australian lacewood, while fret board and bridge are Macassar Ebony. Paul also requested a wider nut width of 1 7/16″ as opposed to the usualy 1 3/8″– I made the neck a little thinner with more of a “C” shape to compensate. I’ve used K&K’s twin mini Aloha under sound board, passive pickup and Gotoh 4::1 tuners to finish. Fun and distinctive!
Here’s a new tenor with a wood that I have built with before. My client just loved the look and I do too. Personally, I love variation in the wood such as this sap wood center (click on the pictures for a closer look). I’m not as fortunate as some of the builders on the Big Island to have access to some really great 5A curl and color. Occasionally I do run across some pretty Koa and I believe that this is representative. I’ve used vintage style rope purfling and back strip with east India rosewood binding to accent. The fret board and bridge are Macassar ebony. Otherwise, pretty straight forward and functional. Amplification is with MI-SI under saddle piezo.
Pro musician and ukulele phenom Carl Ray Villaverde just picked up his new ukulele this weekend (youtube: carl ray villaverde). This tenor cut-a-way was co-designed by Carl and I. Besides the request for particular woods, Carl was most adamant on a “C” shaped neck. I’ll have to admit that after shaping this neck to his specifications, I was most impressed by the feel and play-ability–so much so, that I shaped the next 4 instrument necks to the same dimensions. In addition, I added an asymmetric heal as you can see by the back photo. Carl plays “a lot” on the upper positions and I think he will appreciate this modification.
Anyway, Carl is one hell of a musician and he blew away my family and friends with an impromptu performance at the shop.
This instrument is made of Oregon curly big leaf maple, with curly Koa binding. The sound board is sitka spruce. The neck is Oregon black walnut. The head stock is Indonesian Amboyna burl with Paua Abalone “CV” inlay. Fret board and bridge are Macassar ebony and I used LMI’s gold EVO fret wire (no nickle). We decided on a MI-SI under saddle, passive pick-up. Carl requested a Reunion Blues case to protect this instrument and ,I think, this was an excellent choice. Oh, I didn’t mention the new Gotoh 4::1 planetary tuners. Carl also wanted Aquila low “G” strings but uses Concert rather than Tenor. I”ll have to admit this worked well– after all, who am I to complain when there are no rules in ukulele!
Suzie ordered a baritone koa ukulele. Nothing fancy she said, no pick-up, no glitz. OK, I put strings on this instrument this weekend and, although I have not finished final adjustment, I have totally fallen in love with this instrument. Here I have used a 4A curly koa with East India Rosewood binding. The neck is African mahogany and the accents are Oregon curly maple. I used Gotoh mini, closed, upgrade tuners from my friend Asa at Hana Lima’Ia and the strings are D’Addario Titanium. I just love the depth and sustain that these little instruments provide–definitely a transition instrument for the guitar player. Suzie did not want to convert to GCEA tuning so I tried to keep this as close as possible to guitar sound and feel as possible. I could definitely slack to “G” tuning and play my favorite slack key favorites. So nahenahe. OMG!
I just finished this Black Limba ukulele. It’s a tenor, by the way. Haven’t made one from this wood in awhile since I have not had a reliable source for wood. This wood has a really pleasant tap tone and I especially like the varied appearances–absolutely no two instruments look the same. Most of these instruments present a full, mid-range sound with excellent sustain and volume. The neck is Black Limba as well and light. In keeping with the African theme I used African Wenge for binding combined with a vintage-style purfling to accent. The finger board and bridge are Madagascar Ebony. I expect this instrument to perform well with any string combination.
Got this Claro Black Walnut from my good friends at Gilmer Woods in Oregon. I’ve topped this uke with a 60+ year old Sitka Spruce that was rescued from the Gibson factory. I left the age stain down the middle just to give it some credibility. The binding is Hawaiian Koa, the neck is Oregon Black Walnut, the finger board and bridge are of Madagascar Ebony and the accents are Oregon Myrtle. The headstock laminate is Australia Queensland Eucalyptus Burl. I’m using Gotoh 4:1 tuners. Probably going to string with Jason Arimoto’s PHD’s in low G. I love this wood!
If you have been to the website, you might be asking yourself what is a carbon fiber tone bar. In short it is a piece of pultruded carbon fiber bar that I have inlayed into the neck. Honestly, this stuff is freaking stiff. There really isn’t that much tension on an ukulele neck, so I would consider this to be “overbuild” but I have added this material to every uke that I have made. I have only had one neck that showed any distortion. As a plus this material has a very bright tap tone and I think adds tonal quality as well.
I just purchased some Black Limba lumber and here are a few pictures of book matches from that piece. Shhhhh! It’s a secret so don’t tell anyone– this wood duplicates Koa and Black walnut in density and tonal quality. The pattern of the wood varies substantially as you can see. All of these pieces plus sides came from the same piece of lumber that was barely 8′ long.
The “bird’s eyes” are from moisture contamination around beetle holes. These pieces are acceptable for backs and sides. I do not usually use the beetle hole pieces for tops but it really doesn’t make that much difference as long as there aren’t too many holes in the wrong spots. The eyes definitely give character to the appearance. I am matching these pieces with necks of the same wood or black walnut pending availability. The instrument shown is near completion and gives you an idea of what the wood looks like in a finished instrument. Black is beautiful baby!
Being a sucker for any new and different wood, I couldn’t resist this recent offering from Luthier’s Mercantile. It is called Tigrillo. I don’t know a whole lot more about the wood other than LMI reports that it is from Peru and is responsibly harvested and maintained. The wood has a vertical tiger-like stripe and is golden in color. I find it to provide a warm and rich tone. Here it is paired with a Canadian Sitka Spruce top. The finger board and bridge are Mexican Bocote. The ukulele is old school for me with a center sound hole and no side port. Strung initially with Aquila low “G”. Binding is East India Rosewood. The finger board and bridge are Mexican Bocote.